AOL and Google are joining forces once again to offer users interoperability among Gmail, Google Talk and AIM.
A few years ago, Google announced a partnership with AOL that allowed people to chat with AIM users from inside Gmail. This one-sided feature was a little confusing, as Gmail users could access their AIM account through Google Talk, but not vice versa.
Now, AOL is letting users chat with AOL contacts across a variety of Google services: Gmail, iGoogle, Orkut and Google Talk on Android phones.
If you had already added your AIM buddies to your Gchat list, you'll notice a few changes: First, you no longer need an AIM account to connect to your friends using AIM. Second, you can no longer sign in to your AIM account from within Gchat since you can now add AIM contacts directly. Here's how to re-add your AIM contacts to Gchat, and how to import Gchat contacts to AIM.
How to Add AIM Contacts to Gchat
There are two ways you can add AIM buddies to your Gchat list. If you only want to add select AIM buddies, click the box under Chat and type the screen name of your buddy with the "@aol.com" extension.
Click "Invite to chat" and once your contact has accepted the invitation, they will appear in your Gchat list as a contact.
If you want to re-import the entirety of your AIM buddy list, AOL has created a tool that will import the 82 buddies you chat with the most, automatically. To do this, visit this AIM landing page and follow the instructions. After you enter your Gmail username and password the import will begin.
How to Add Gchat Contacts to AIM
Importing your Gchat contacts to your AIM buddy list is easy. From "Options," choose "Add To Buddy List," then select "Set up Google Talk."
Next, you'll be asked to provide your Gmail username and password. A few seconds after you click "Sign In," a new buddy group called "Google Friends" will populate.
You can turn off your visibility to your Gchat contacts on AIM at any time. To do this, click "Options" and select "Sign out of Google Talk." You will still remain online to your AIM buddies, however your Gchat contacts won't be able to see you.
The interoperability that AOL and Google now offer is a great step in unifying your communications. With the Google Talk partnership, AOL now offers one platform for communicating with your AIM buddies, Gmail contacts and your Facebook friends. Google has yet to enter into any partnerships with Facebook for linking Facebook Chat to Gchat, or vice versa.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com